12 Bizarre Comments About Identical Twins

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We twin mothers love to trade notes on the odd and ignorant comments and questions we get from strangers. Most of the time, we’re given an opportunity to educate and for people to coo over our little ones. Standard questions include “Are they natural?” and “Can you tell them apart?”.

I’m used to those questions. Then, there are these questions. The comments I’m sharing here came from a completely different place. These questions didn’t come from ignorance or curiosity.

They came from Cuckooland.

  1. What are they mixed? It turns out that the person asking this oddly phrased question wanted to know about my daughters’ ancestry/racial makeup. The comment-maker was herself biracial and was curious about my triracial girls. They are half Bengali (South Asian/Indian/choose your term), quarter Mexican (Hispanic/Native North American/Spanish) and quarter Caucasian (Scottish/Irish/French). I prefer the terms “people”, “children”, and “American”. “Twin-American” if you insist on hyphenation.sadia2toddlercarry
  2. How could you not rhyme their names? This question was posed to me by a mother of boy/girl twins whose daughter was in the same jazz dance class as my daughters. I am rarely left speechless, but she managed it. I came back with some weak answer about not wanting to echo the plight of the monozygotic twins in our family named Janice and Janet."How could you not rhyme their names?" asks one mother of twins to another. And other odd questions.
  3. Why do you dress them alike? Granted, this is less cuckoo than the other questions on this list, but the assumption that there could only be one way to do things drives me batty. When they were babies, it was because we were given so many matching outfits at our baby showers. And because it’s adorable. Once they per past age one, it was because M and J had opinions of their own.Twins in coordinating outfits are adorable! And twins in uncoordinated outfits? Equally adorable...
  4. Why don’t you dress them alike? I’ve actually gotten this question on the very same day as Number 10. When they were babies, it was because it was way too much hassle to keep them coordinated. Also, J tended to want to be cooler than M, so she wore fewer layers. Once they were past age one, it was because J and M had opinions of their own.J and M didn't care to dress alike on this particular day. They get to have a say in the matter. From hdydi.com
  5. Which one’s the good one? I still don’t have a witty comeback for this one. Interestingly, I’ve only ever received this question from males.Twins in the real world do not come in "good" and "evil" flavours.
  6. Which is the original? Which one is the clone? Oh my. I wish I had a couple of hours to sit down with this guy and give him some basic lessons in fetal development. And manners. Sadly, I didn’t have the time, so I just said, “That’s not how twins work. If you cut an apple in half, there isn’t an original side and a copy side. Each is a full half in its own right.” This wasn’t the best metaphor to use, but it was what I could think of while holding two crying babies and checking out of the grocery store with apple-pear-sauce ingredients.Identical twins no more consistent of  an "original" and a "copy" than halves of an apple.
  7. Do they have different personalities? I tried to imagine the internal world of this person. They must imagine identical twins all over the world walking around in lockstep and speaking at the same time.Some people have some odd assumptions about twins.
  8. Do they have different names? I’m not George Foreman. Unlike Mr. Foreman, most twin parents do not give their children the same name.
  9. If I pinch one, does the other feel it? No. Just no.
  10. Do they have ESP? I mustered up my creepiest stare.These are not the twins with ESP you are looking for.
  11. Were you pregnant for 18 months? I felt bad for this girl. She seemed to be college aged, but may have been younger. Her question was so genuine and her affection for the babies so honest, I didn’t have the heart for snark. I just told her that no, the babies started growing at the same time and grew at the same rate as regular ones, so I just got really big. I didn’t think she could handle any information about prematurity while she processed that.Sadia and her husband, while expecting. From M and J's Birth Story from hdydi.com
  12. They are not identical. They’re wearing different colours. Here’s how I usually handle this type of comment. In this case, I just said, “‘Identical’ is more about how twins grew in the womb than how they look.” Sometimes, you have to pick your battles.Identical twins can wear different clothes. However, some people out and about will be very confused by this. The oddest questions faced by a mom of twins.

What’s the most oddball question or comment you’ve received so far?

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It’s Okay to Think It: Responding to Twin Comments

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Most days, I recognize that when some asks me “Are they twins?”, they really mean, “I see you have twins, but I don’t want to jump to any conclusions. You might have just have a kid with a growth problem. I would like to open a conversation on the subject of (your) twins, so let me make sure that they are twins.” Then there are the days when I have been chocolate-deprived or sleep-deprived or my children are 3 years old or I am generally grumpy. On those days, don’t ask me these questions.

I may smile and answer your dumb questions about twins but you should know, I will laugh at you with all my twin mom friends later.
From Someecards.com

On days of the Sadia grumpies, here is what happens when talking to people I will generally label as Nice Person at the Grocery Store (NPGS).

NPGS: “Are they twins?”
Sadia’s internal monologue: Duh.
Sadia: “Yes, they are.”

NPGS: “Are they identical?”
Sadia’s internal monologue: Yes. The ultrasound said so. You see, they shared an outer sac, but not an inner sac, and that’s how we know. They’re “identical” only in the genetic sense. I wish I could get people to use the term “monozygotic”. That means they came from a single zygote, a single fertilized egg. It’s most fascinating to study how different monozygotic twins really are. You really should have asked if they were monozygotic. Look at ’em! They don’t look the same, so clearly they’re not “identical”! They could have been dizygotic twins, and still looked all kinds of similar. “Dizygotic” would have been what you meant if you’d said “fraternal”. There is no such thing as a “paternal” twin, so it’s a good thing you didn’t say that.
Sadia: “Yes.”

NPGS: “Can you tell them apart?”
Sadia’s internal monologue: Now why would I need to do that?
Sadia: “Yes.”

NPGS: “How do you tell them apart?”
Sadia’s internal monologue: They’re different people. How do you usually tell people apart? Go read Alice in Wonderland: `That’s just what I complain of,’ said Humpty Dumpty. `Your face is the same as everybody has — the two eyes, so –‘ (marking their places in the air with his thumb) `nose in the middle, mouth under. It’s always the same. Now if you had the two eyes on the same side of the nose, for instance — or the mouth at the top — that would be some help.’
Sadia: “They have very different personalities. And different noses. And different haircuts.”

In haven’t gotten this since they were infants, and it was probably because I dressed them in colours other than pink:
NPGS: “Which one’s the boy?”
Sadia’s internal monologue: I just told you they were monozygotic! Fine, there’s that one set of twins that’s monozygotic but different genders; I saw them on National Geographic. These are not they.
Sadia: “Both girls.”

NPGS:Who’s older?
Sadia’s internal monologue: How is that relevant? The whole age rank typecasting thing just doesn’t apply. They’re two minutes apart. They’re both bossy, if that’s what you’re asking. The doctor yanked J out first.
Sadia: Wave hand in the general direction of both girls. “That one.”

NPGS:You’ve got your hands full.
Sadia’s internal monologue: Why would I want my hands empty?
Sadia: *smile* or “Better full than empty.”

NPGS:Are they natural?
Sadia’s internal monologue: Are you really truly asking a stranger about her reproductive system? Really? You’re asking me whether their father and I had trouble conceiving? How is that any of your business? If I had gone through the trauma of finding myself infertile and the emotional, physical and financial rollercoaster of in-vitro fertilization, do you really think I would want to discuss at the check-out line, in front of my children? What if I were to turn around and ask you about your fertility level? Some people!
Sadia: “Yes, but I’m not sure infertility is an appropriate topic for discussion in front of my children.”

NPGS:Do twins run in your family?
Sadia’s internal monologue: Of course they run. In fact, they’re running right now. They jump too. And dance. Oh, there they go, skipping again. Someone’s going to get hurt.
Sadia: “In my mother-in-law’s family.”

NPGS: “Better you than me!”
Sadia’s internal monologue: No, kidding, with that attitude. I really hope you don’t have kids of your own. Your resentment of children is kind of obvious.
Sadia: “Yep!”

NPGS: “Oh you poor thing. Twins!”
Sadia’s internal monologue: You did NOT just say that in front of my children!
Sadia: Leave as quickly as possible.

NPGS: “Twins! I would kill myself.
Sadia’s internal monologue: See “Oh you poor thing.”
Sadia: See “Oh you poor thing.”

NPGS: “Double trouble.”
Sadia’s internal monologue: See “Oh you poor thing.”
Sadia: “Double fun, if you ask me!”

NPGS:How do you do it?
Sadia’s internal monologue: Pretty darn well, thank you very much.
Sadia: “They make it easy.” Or, if they’re arguing, “Oh, I just do my best.”

NPGS: “Were you trying to get pregnant?”
Sadia’s internal monologue: PRIVATE. PRIVATE. PRIVATE.
Sadia: “Oh, sure. We planned the pregnancy, and got a bonus prize.”

NPGS: “Were you trying to have twins?”
Sadia’s internal monologue: Huh? How, precisely, would I do that?
Sadia: “Huh?”

"Are they natural?" is a loaded question many strangers ask parents of multiples.

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Responding to “You Have Your Hands Full”

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We recently asked our Facebook fans how they respond to that tired comment from strangers: “You have your hands full.” We got some great responses!

A group of moms put me to shame for reading this comment in a negative light. After all, it’s true. My hands, my life and my heart are crazy full! Here are some of their responses.

  • We sure do. I know whomever is not trying to be mean. They see a mom with a 23-month-old and two 4-month-olds.
  • Yes I do. It’s usually a true statement.
  • Yep!
  • Yes, I do. Wanna help?

I wasn’t the only one, though, who wanted a quick comeback in hand.

  • And so is my heart. I also say “better me than you” before they can say the opposite.
  • Yes, and I am never letting go.
  • Better full than empty.
  • And that’s how I like it!
  • I love the chaos. Because I do.

Do you have a favourite from the responses above? What’s your canned responses to “You have your hands full!”

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One Negative Twin Comment Too Many

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My very first negative twin comment experience happened when I was pregnant, gleefully scanning an early ultrasound photo in the office copy room. One of my coworkers walked in as I was walking out, ultrasound picture in hand.

“What’s that?” He asked me, eyeing the photo.

“Uh … nothing …” I wasn’t quite three months along, and not ready to share this news with my coworkers.

“Ah – it looks like an ultrasound pic. Congrats. When are you due?”

“October!” I said, in a rush of excitement. “But I am actually having twins … so they will probably come earlier than that. The latest will probably be toward the end of September …”

He looked at me with such utter shock that my heart stopped. “Twins?!!! Are they natural? Oh boy. I feel sorry for you. That’s going to be awful. How will you guys afford it? Two babies?! You don’t even know what one newborn is like. Is Steven okay with this? Is he upset?” (Yes, this is the actual conversation. I kid you not.)

Granted, he had a young child who still hadn’t started sleeping through the night and a marriage that was on the rocks … maybe twins was overwhelming to him … but still. I walked back to my office with a heavy heart. It was almost as if he had shattered something beautiful and innocent that I had held dear in those first few weeks. We hadn’t experienced any negativity in the least  from family or friends, and my husband was over the moon. My coworker’s comment, I would soon find out, would be the first of many not-so-nice comments about twins.

I am always stopped short in my tracks when a stranger or acquaintance says something rude to me about twins. I don’t react right away. I don’t know how to react. I usually keep moving, and the whole time regret not saying something rude back. Regret not standing up for myself and my children.

In the beginning, it would shake me to the core. I would cry to my husband when I was home later, feeling sad and awful that people could be so insensitive, especially when talking about my children, who were completely innocent of the fact they were twins and sometimes perceived to the outside world as a burden. In the months after their birth, I quickly grew a thick skin, and the comments started to roll off of me. Instead of tearing me down, I let the rudeness slide right off of me, and I would keep on walking.

Perhaps you could say I recently reached a third stage of enlightenment: talking back.

It was during a weekly CVS trip. The woman at the counter that day was one who always waited on me. While she doted on Jack and Mara, she always had something a little rude to say about them. Today was no different.

“Ah! They are getting so big!” She says, peering into my stroller.

“I know … they are nine months old already. Its starting to fly by!”

“I hope to have a baby with my boyfriend … I guess you could say I’m a late bloomer … I’m 36 and I think my time might be up,” she says.

“No! A lot of women have babies a little later. My sister-in-law is almost 37 and has a baby. My boss started having kids when she was 40! It will all work out,” I tell her.

She leans in, as if sharing a secret with me. “Well, there are twins on my side of the family, and my boyfriend’s side … Oh My God! I can’t imagine!” She wrinkles her nose as if smelling something awful. “I would die! I’m sorry, but I think it would be awful.”

I say nothing and pay, walk my babies out of the store, and head for the car.

By the time I get to the car, I am fuming.

By the time I unload Jack and Mara, I am ready to go back in and say something to her.

I march back into the store, and go back to the pharmacy counter. She spots me, and walks over. “Hi – did you forget something?” She asks.

“Well, I just wanted to let you know … your comment was rude. When you are talking about twins to a mother of twins, you shouldn’t say they’re awful.” I pull my sunglasses off. “Its fine if you think that way, but it was really rude for you to say that to me.” I’m shaking.

The woman looks genuinely taken aback. “No! I didn’t mean it like that. I think if my boyfriend and I had twins it would be such a blessing …”

“No, you don’t,” I say, and walk out. Other customers had heard our exchange, and so had her coworker. I wonder what she is thinking.

My husband thinks I overreacted, and perhaps I did. Perhaps it was unfortunate that it was this comment (surely not the most horrible I have ever heard) that somehow moved me enough to speak up. Back to the event in the work copy room – I had muttered a few words back which to this day I can’t remember, and walked away, feeling embarrassed. It was this exchange, in the CVS, where I finally had enough.

I do think there is a larger issue at hand – people, when speaking this way about twins, don’t realize they are being rude. The woman in CVS had not tried to intentionally hurt my feelings; I know that. To her, the idea of twins is truly horrifying. And that’s fine. But, she didn’t – and others don’t – stop and think about how their comments come across. They sting.

While I am still trying to find my best approach to hurtful comments, I would love to know how others react. Should I just have walked away? Or did I do the right thing?

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Are They Natural?

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Categories Attitude, Fertility, How Do The Moms Do It, Mommy Issues, Other people, PerspectiveTags , , 13 Comments

If there’s one thing that bugs me, it’s people seeing my identical twin daughters and asking whether they’re “natural.” I know where the question comes from. People are well aware that there’s an increased chance of conceiving multiples with certain types of fertility treatments. They see a pair of children who are pretty clearly twins, and they want to know whether they were conceived with or without medical assistance.

First, let me answer the question. J and M are spontaneous twins. (Thanks to Goddess in Progress, the founder of HDYDI, for giving me that term to use when I complained about how awkward I found the phrase “natural twins.”) I quit taking birth control pills, waited a month, got busy with my husband, and 7 months later had two amazing daughters.

I’ve never struggled with infertility, so I can’t truly understand what that experience is like. I can imagine, though, that I wouldn’t want to discuss infertility with strangers, especially in front of my children. I would imagine that early attempts to get pregnant, repeated visits to the doctor, diagnoses, perhaps even miscarriages, are none of anyone else’s business. If someone is asking because they’re suffering from infertility themselves and are seeking someone who understands, that’s one thing, but most of the time the question comes from pure nosiness.

When I hear the horrible, “Are they natural?” I sometimes answer, “Yes,” and go on about my day. Sometimes, I say, “They were conceived spontaneously.” Sometimes, it’s, “IVF increases the chances of fraternal twins. Mine are identical.” Once, it was, “Are you asking whether my girls were conceived through unprotected sex? Yep, they were!” I was in a bad mood that day.

When I have the time and patience, though, I try to raise awareness. I say, “I was lucky not to suffer from fertility challenges, but I imagine that if I had, I might not want to talk about it. I think of all the tears I’ve shed over friends’ miscarriages. I’m not sure I consider that a topic for casual conversation.” More often than not, the response I get back is, “I never thought about that. Thanks.”

We have fraternal triplets in the family. I don’t know whether they were IVF babies. It’s not my business.

How do you respond to, “Are they natural?”

Sadia lives with her daughters M and J in the Austin, TX area. She is divorced and works in higher education information technology.

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